Deputy President David Mabuza has conceded that while the South African government has made significant inroads in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic, more needs to be done to curb the scourge.
“We must intensify our programme on prevention by employing every method possible to end this epidemic,” he said.
The Deputy President made the remarks while delivering his address at the World Aids Day Commemoration at the James Motlatsi Stadium, in the North West, on Sunday.
“For our part as a country, our journey and contribution to the vision of zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, has been long and difficult.”
He reflected on a time in the country when every week and in every community, the pain of losing someone to AIDS-related illnesses was a common phenomenon.
“We are today acknowledged by UNAIDS and others as a global and continental leader in HIV response. This is precisely because we have adopted and implemented the right and comprehensive policies to respond to this epidemic.”
He expressed gratitude to partnerships and support received, saying the contributions galvanised political leadership, civil society and the private sector into coherent action.
“In particular the United Nations family, the United States Government through its PEPFAR programme and the Global Fund. We wish to thank you for your continued support and emphasise that your support is not in vain.”
Through the South African National AIDS Council, he said, the country has seen the impact of collaborative efforts in moving the response forward.
“We take pride in the fact that in South Africa, government remains the main funder of the country’s comprehensive response by contributing close to 80% of the resources,” he said.
Today, he said, the council counts among its victories the fact that South Africa has the biggest HIV treatment programme in the world, with more than 4.5 million people on life-saving antiretrovirals.
“Our anti-retroviral treatment programme has resulted in an increase in life expectancy of our people and low levels of mother-to-child HIV transmission rates. This means that millions of South Africans who previously had no hope of sustained quality of life, now live longer and are able to contribute to building a South Africa of our dreams,” he said.
HIV/AIDS, he said, brought pain and misery to many families in townships and villages but communities mobilised themselves into pressure groups and advocacy organisations and demanded government action and provision of treatment for those infected by the pandemic.
“We must tackle head-on all contributing factors to new infections. This include talking openly and frankly to our young people on issues of sexuality and resultant risks of unprotected sex to potential infections and teenage pregnancies. This fight should be led from the front.”
Deputy President Mabuza called on South Africans to create platforms for collaborative approaches in how to advance human rights for all.
“It should be communities making a difference in ending stigma and discrimination against key populations and those infected by HIV and TB. For us to win end the dual pandemics of HIV and TB, communities must stop stigmatising and discriminating against those affected and infected by these pandemics.”
The Deputy President said Government will work tirelessly to ensure the speedy implementation of the National Emergency Response Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide.
He commended the Men Championing Change programmes, led by the SANAC Men’s sector, through the Takuwani Riime programme.
This programme is spearheading one of the most robust men mobilisation initiatives in the country to address social ills perpetuated by patriarchy.
“Every day should be about community mobilisation in all corners of our country to ensure that gender-based violence has no place in our society,” he said.